Barclays Bank Zimbabwe employees have approached the High Court seeking to stop the sale of the financial institution to a Malawian investor or any other buyer, demanding to be given the right of first refusal.
by XOLISANI NCUBE
In an urgent chamber application filed by their lawyers, Matsikidze and Mucheche Labour Law Chambers, the 63 workers, led by Sydney Mwalo, pleaded with the court to stop the sale of a stake in Barclays Bank Plc to Malawi-based First Merchant Bank (FMB) until they have shown that they cannot buy the shares.
FMB has been in talks to buy Barclays International’s 68% stake in Barclays Bank Zimbabwe, which has $60 million capitalisation on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
“The respondent (Barclays Bank Zimbabwe) is and, hereby, interdicted from disposing its shares or business to the Malawi investors or any other investors without, firstly, consulting the applicants (workers), as required in terms of the Labour Act,” part of the court papers filed on Tuesday read.
“The respondent (Barclays Bank Zimbabwe) is and, hereby, interdicted from disposing its shares or business to the Malawi investors or any other investors without giving the applicants the right of first refusal or the right of pre-emption and/or complying with the indigenisation and empowerment laws, which mandate that the applicants and other lower level employees to be empowered by forming share-ownership schemes, which allow them to be shareholders before other suitors are considered.”
Barclays Bank plc last year said it was looking to sell-off its African assets and focus on the British and American markets.
According to the affidavit filed by Mwalo, Barclays, in 2016, indicated that it was disposing of part of the shares. The workers claim the matter was concealed from them until they started to enquire but with no success.
Mwalo stated that according to the Labour Act, the issue of change of ownership or disposal of shares was a matter which the law requires the respondents to consult the applicants first.
“In this matter, at all material times the respondents rejected the applicants’ request for a works council meeting in terms of section 25A of the Labour Act to discuss the issue of the sale or disposal of its shares or business to third parties,” part of the affidavit reads.
“The decision to dispose the shares or business to Malawi investors is irrational and will cause customer flight, as most customers are international organisations, who need security of their funds. Thus, the disposal to investors without consulting those customers (will result in) customer and capital flight and subsequently, the bank will collapse and applicants will be jobless.”
The bank was given 10 days to respond to the application or the matter will proceed as unopposed.